Asia Pacific Rail 2017 Event Highlights: Interview with TC Chew

Asia Pacific Rail was once again successfully organised from 21-22 March 2017 in Hong Kong. This year’s edition was our biggest and best yet, with more than 1,500 attendees from 668 organisation and 38 countries, cementing Asia Pacific Rail’s position as the must-attend annual gathering of APAC rail industry’s leaders and decision-makers.

We had the chance to sit down with Mr. TC Chew, President, Global Business & Operations at Samsung C&T Corporation. TC is a also a veteran in the rail industry, with over 30 years of experience in project and construction management for major rail infrastructure programmes. He shared with us his views on how emerging technologies will shape the railway industry and the key challenges faced by rail operators.

1. Could you share about your role at Samsung C&T

I’m the President for Global Business and Operations. Principally I’m involved in the civil infrastructure development work and construction as an EPC contractor rather than specifically into railway. Samsung does get involved in a few railway projects in Hong Kong and Singapore. In Riyadh, we are in partnership with a number of contractors, delivering a total railway system for the Saudi Government. So that’s the extent of Samsung’s involvement in the railway aspect of the world, but we would do anything that gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our engineering capabilities in civil infrastructure.

2. There have been a lot of emerging technologies. How do you think the railway industry will evolve in the next decade?

I think the market dynamic would determine how far it goes. If you look at all these smart technologies, it all stems from availability of the cables that can carry the communication data and information, and how you share those information or allow the upload and download of the information. So one of the most basic things that you need to have is for railways to be willing to invest in these communication infrastructure.

But there are many railways in the world who don’t even have this basic element. My fear is that for security reason, people might often decide not to go for that, and that would be a disadvantage to their customers. Once you have that facility, then you have a commitment to your customers to maintain and continue to improve that, and that has a significant investment cost.

This is a challenging debate that operators of the metro systems need to articulate internally. In the presentations, we heard about economics, ROI, value creation. As designers/developers of systems, they want to make sure their systems can perform and have a broad applicable as much as possible. The gist of my presentation is given that we have all these technology and it’s changing at a very fast rate, how can the railway industry pull all these together and create value for their customers. This is a huge challenge but a lot of people don’t debate that. You got to take ownership.

3. What are the key challenges that rail operators face today?

We heard from other rail operators that it’s all about the people. The challenge is not about technology. The true challenge is understanding how technology can serve you and how can it serve you better without affecting your service reliability and performance. If you implement a system and it is going to add a volume of time to look after that asset before it functions properly, you got to make that judgement call. I don’t think there’s a clear cut case, that’s why there’s a lot of data analysis or looking at big data to understand if it can really serve the operator well and they can look after it and achieve its performance at the lowest cost.

Want to find out the latest updates in the Asia-Pacific rail industry? Join us at Asia Pacific Rail 2018 to meet the rail leaders.

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